FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT THE Catholic bishops of Rhodesia have unilaterally torn up the interim agreement on multi-racial education which they reached with the Smith regime last February, and they will no longer accept any limitation on, for example, the number of African pupils in multi-racial schools. The bishops' decision came on Monday on the eve of the announcement of Sir Alec Douglas-Home's visit to Salisbury for talks with Ian Smith.
This could mean another head on clash between Church 'and State, or it may simply be part of a series of tactical moves designed to assuage the "ultras" on both sides, not to mention the British negotiators in Salisbury and their masters in Whitehall.
The sequence of events is this: In August of last year the Churches forced the regime to amend the Land Tenure Act, to exclude from its apartheid effects all land held by the Church under the old category of "mission lands."
There remained the prob
lem of the Churches' multiracial institutions in predominantly European areas. Would the government, under the Land Tenure Act, prevent, say, African pupils from attending mixed schools in these areas?
The Churches were given until March 1971 to register such Africans, so that the appropriate Minister could decide. At first the Churches refused to register, since to do so, they said, might be taken as an admission that the government had a right to make racially exclusive orders.
Negotiations ran into deadlock and, with the March deadline coming up, the Catholic bishops agreed under protest, and only as an interim arrangement pending further negotiation, to register as required. This, however, was on condition that the status quo would be preserved and, for example, that African pupils could thus be admitted to the extent of six per cent of a school's population.
Militant Catholics condemned this as a compromise. The bishops' supporters argued that it represented a gain over the government — for the alternative would have been to exclude Africans from the multi-racial schools altogether, as the government in fact had intended to do.
During the past few months, impatient right-wing forces in Ian Smith's party, the Rhodesia Front, have been clamouring for stronger measures to keep Africans out of the mainly European areas, and the government has been threatening to evict African tenants from mission-owned land in the Salisbury area.
Towards the end of October, the Heads of Denominations issued a strong condemnation of these tendencies, and the Catholic Bishops informed the government that the interim agreement over the multi-racial schools must be regarded as at an end. Nor, in the present climate, could they see any point in further negotiation.
The government then announced that African tenants would be evicted from the Methodist Mission at Epworth, and that it was con• sidering similar action with (continued on page 10)